I read. I write. I run. Ideally. But not as often as I’d like.
I’m a husband, I’m a father. Every second, every hour, every day.
I work. And commute.
That’s my life, in three lines and thirty words.
Three lines, thirty words and twenty-four hours to fit them all in. Precious time. Never-ending but never enough. For the essentials, or the non-essentials. Like the ten cedar fence panels that need to be stained. Start to finish that would take me about thirty hours, spread out over many days. Thirty hours I don’t have. Or more accurately, thirty hours I don’t want to carve out of my schedule. Sacrificing essentials.
A fifty mile run is starting to feel essential.
Run, jog, climb, walk, shuffle. 12 hours. Or 14. Maybe longer. Through heat and humidity. Or rain and wind and mud. Discomfort. Pain. Chafing. Boredom. Cramps. Nausea.
A finish line.
The allure of the 50 Miler. An allure I can’t entirely account for. But I’m drawn to the 50. Maybe because I’m closing in on fifty myself, running 50 miles before turning fifty feels like a worthy goal. Maybe because it’s a challenge that seems hard, but doable. I might fail – in the training, or on race day. But I might succeed. I think I can succeed. I’d like to find out.
But I haven’t registered yet. I’m not even sure which race I’d attempt.
Maybe the same one my brother did several years ago. He suffered, finished and inspired. He ran all 50 miles with a Yoda doll on his back. “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” My brother the Yoda runner made a lot of people smile that day. The trail run is called Sulphur Springs. It’s just outside Hamilton. My dad grew up there. My parents were newlyweds there. I was born there. Went to university there. Hamilton is special. The farther it recedes in the distance the more special it gets.
Sulphur Springs is in a little town called Ancaster. I did my first ever 10 kilometer run in Ancaster. Twenty-two years ago. Part of training for my first marathon. I remember finishing, and hurting, and wondering how could I possibly run four of those back to back. Plus another 2.1 kilometers just for some extra agony. But I did. Learned that it was possible. Running rewards training, and miles, and minutes and hours.
There are good reasons not to do it.
Thousands of reasons. Thousands of dollars. Flight, hotel, rental car.
Hundreds of reasons. Miles. Hundreds and hundreds of miles required. To train my body and my mind. But when a one hour run is a luxury, how do I justify a three hour run? Or four hours – two days in a row? Time away from the ones I love. Days, hours, minutes, seconds.
I think a lot about those seconds.
About the distinction between being true to myself and being responsible.
About the essentials.
Should a daughter grow up seeing her father doing the things that he loves? Or does she grow up and remember that he was away for endless hours. Not with her. Choosing not to be with her. When I want more than anything to be with her.
I started writing this essay months ago, and set it aside until today. Coincidentally it’s Father’s Day 2019. An incredibly special, still surreal day for me, a man amazed that I am blessed to be a father.
I’m awake early. On purpose. Some quiet time before my daughter wakes up. I can hear her singing in her crib. I’m too far away to make out the words, but it’s probably a song from Frozen, the Disney movie. The one all little girls seem to love. I can’t tell you how much I love having a little daughter who loves Princess Elsa and Princess Anna. It’s one of the best things ever. She sings, and dances, and role-plays, and assembles her dolls and celebrates Coronation Day. Pure joy, and innocence.
Elsa and Anna will probably have a Coronation Day this morning. On Father’s Day 2019. I’ll be one of the invited guests.
And sometime after Coronation Day, or maybe before, I’ll put on my shorts and lace up my shoes and head out. For a ten miler. Or maybe 15. Building blocks for a 50 Miler.
Coronation Day. Father’s Day. And maybe, one day next year, Race Day – 50 Miles.
2 thoughts on “The Essentials”
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The dreams you have today must be acted on. Succeeding is immaterial because it is only in the taking part that the ones you love the most will recognize the biggest benefit. A dad who completed or just attempted a 50 mile race goes down as not just a dad but a hero dad. A dad that a daughter tells stories about at recess and lunch time for years to come.
Best of luck Pal.
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Thanks so much Mark. What you wrote is very moving. It means a lot to me.